Scientists have found even more evidence that it was time to give up the soda, drop lemonade and sweet coffee. These sweetened beverages are good to taste, but they may also cause early death.
A 34-year study of more than 118,000 men and women across the United States published in the Circulation newspaper Monday suggests that people who drink more sugary drinks are more likely to die from all sorts of things, including heart problems and cancers, and soda and sugar substitutes may not be much better when consumed in large quantities.
Scientists have known for a long time that sugary drinks can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, but the latest evidence that these drinks can be life-threatening is the most damaging to date.
Results from cancer deaths were particularly surprising for the lead author of the study, Vasanti Malik, a researcher in the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, H. Chan.
"It makes sense," she told Business Insider. "When we looked at different types of cancers, this association was motivated by breast and colon cancers, which are diet-related / obesity-related cancers."
The Malik study also suggests that people who are trying to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks might have an interest in adopting diet options, at least temporarily.
"Diet sodas can be used to help heavy drinkers reduce their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice," she said in a press release.
The authors of this study found that daily consumption of four or more artificially sweetened beverages significantly increased the risk of death for women, although the same can not be said for men. Researchers believe that the link between dietary drinks and an increased risk of death can be explained by the fact that people who are already overweight drink more.
"Women with high dietary drink consumption tended to be heavier and suffer from hypertension," Malik said.
A double threat to health, due to sugar and lack of exercise
This is bad news because people who drink more sugary drinks also tend to be less physically active, which creates a kind of double threat to health.
After participating in two long-term studies for 34 years, the researchers found that people who drank sweetened beverages were more likely to die from many things – and the higher the sugar level, the higher the risk of death.
Compared with those who drank one soft drink per month (without fruit juice), women who drank more than 24 ounces of syrupy drinks had a 63% higher risk of death, while men increased their risk by 29%. (Women may underreport fewer calories than men, which would skew the numbers this way, Malik said.)
There are caveats. Since this study was observational and scientists did not ask people to stay in a laboratory for decades while collecting data, we can not be sure that there is a causal link between premature death. and sugary drinks. People who drink more sugar may die younger because of less healthy activities, such as consuming more calories or eating more red meat and fewer vegetables.
But even when researchers controlled factors like diet, physical activity, body mass index, and age, they nonetheless found that people who drank more sugary drinks were more likely to die sooner.
"You end up consuming more calories a day, which leads to weight gain over time," said Malik.
The good news is that reducing sugar a little can help. Instead of adding sugar to your coffee or taking a soda, drink coffee with cream and cinnamon or spruce up your selter with a little lemon.